Rainier to Ruston 2024 – A Great Success!

By Dan Bucci

The Foothills Coalition held the 22nd annual Rainier to Ruston Relay on Saturday, June 1st, 2024. The event is always held on the first Saturday of June to celebrate National Trails Day. This event has become a hallmark of the Pacific Northwest Running community, and is one of the biggest races held in the South Sound area. This year saw a huge increase in participation, with 325 teams, and 20 solo runners. With just around 1,600 runners participating in the event, this was the 2nd largest Rainier to Ruston in the event’s history, only behind 2019 which had just under 2,000 participants. This year’s event however did take in the most revenue ever, which is fantastic as this is the single largest revenue source for the Coalition’s operating budget every year!

Participants in the race cover about 53 miles, running from the Carbon River entrance of Mount Rainier National Park and finishing along the Tacoma Waterfront in Cummings Park along Ruston Way. Participants may choose to tackle the distance as 6-person, 4-person, 3-person, or 2-person teams, with each team member taking on multiple “legs” of the event. A few hearty souls (we had 20 this year) chose to run the entire length by themselves! But it’s not just the runners doing lots of work on race day! In the days leading up to the event, there are hundreds of hours poured into marking the course, getting the race equipment cleaned and staged, putting together race packets, and making sure we are prepared to host 1,600 runners. On race day itself, there are somewhere around 100 volunteers that help out at the start line, along the course, and at the finish line to make sure the event goes off without a hitch!

This year we also had extremely generous sponsors, with cash sponsorships from the Port of Tacoma, and Par Pacific, a donation of beer for the beer garden from Silver City Brewing and Athletic Brewing Company, and cookies donated by Farm 12 for all runners at the Meeker Exchange. 

The goal of the event is not to simply raise funds for the coalition, but also to showcase the existing trail, and the corridors where we are working to extend the trail. Participants begin the race running along the Carbon River, and through the Carbon Canyon through the communities of Carbonado and Wilkeson. They then pick-up the completed portions of the Foothills Trail in South Prairie, run through Orting, and into Puyallup. After Puyallup, runners navigate the levee trail and various roads as they traverse through Fife and Tacoma until they arrive at the Museum of Glass in Downtown Tacoma. They then complete the race mostly on park paths and sidewalks along the Tacoma Waterfront and finish on Ruston Way. The race path largely follows the path where we envision having a completed, non-motorized trail, connecting Mount Rainier to the Puget Sound.

Teams are encouraged to decorate their vehicles, come up with creative team names, and run in costumes to add more fun to the day. After finishing the race, runners are treated to a beer garden, and some light refreshments at the finish line while a DJ spins tunes. This year, we also had massages and sno-cones available for purchase! It was great to walk around and see so many people supporting our trail and running for a good cause. The 2024 event felt to me like the most organized, well executed R2R we’ve had to date. I’m looking forward to carrying that momentum into the 2025 event and making that the BIGGEST and BEST R2R in the event’s history!


Photo by: Fast Focus Photography NW